Sunday, April 27, 2014

Debate Building: Catalonia and the European Union

Today the negotiations of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and Kosovo will start in Pristina. The SAA will represent the first comprehensive contractual relationship between Kosovo and the EU and an important milestone in Kosovo's European integration process. After the Commission considered last April that Kosovo had met all the short-term priorities identified in the 2012 Feasibility study (in the areas of rule of law, public administration, protection of minorities and trade), the Council decided in June 2013 to authorise the opening of negotiations on an SAA. (EU starts the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Kosovo, Press Releases Database, European Commission, 28 October 2013)

In this way the European Commission announced the start of negotiations with the representatives of Kosovo, with a view to reaching a bilateral Stabilisation and Association Agreement, a necessary prelude to becoming a formal candidate for entry into the EU (European Union).  The refusal to establish talks with the Balkan country by five member states (Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Spain) had been overcome by means of a singular decision made by the European Council. The agreement with the new sovereign State, recognised by 23 of the 28 member countries, would relate only to the EU in its areas of exclusive competence and not to individual member states. This is an example of great pragmatic versatility in order to make possible the continued widening and deepening of the European programme. Just a year earlier the international and Catalan press had announced the imminence of talks.  La Vanguardia of 10 October 2012 declared:

The European Commission wants to start negotiating the pre-accession of Kosovo, in spite of the refusal of Spain to recognise its independence and in spite of the obstacles it puts in the way of rapprochement with Brussels. This Wednesday, in spite of Spanish pressure, the European Commission has maintained that Kosovo has now initiated the stable legal and institutional framework necessary to start to negotiate its pre-admission to the club.

The stubborn determination with which the European project advances, overcoming all kinds of conflicts and set-backs, owes much to the pragmatism which pervades the decisions taken by its members. There are many examples of this. Greenland leaving the European community following the decision of its citizens in a referendum in 1982 is a typical example. The agreement was a creative way for Greenland to leave but also consistent with the interests of both parties. The island was granted the status of an overseas associated territory under Danish administration. In this way it continued to qualify for financial aid but its fishing industry was not vetoed by the single European market.  Some years later, in 1990, the Council again demonstrated its clear capacity for flexibility, when it made possible the incorporation of East Germany (108,000 square kilometres and 16 million inhabitants) without any modification to existing treaties.  Again in 2004, Cyprus, an island divided into two legitimate nationalities, became a member of the EU thanks to a unique approach. EU law will not apply to the Turkish part of the island, without affecting in any way the personal rights of the inhabitants of this territory.
Experience shows that, ever since the Treaty of Rome came into force in January 1958, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), there has been no problem that the European impulse has been unable to solve. The Catalan case presents a supposition not expressly anticipated in either European or international law. As a result there is very great room for manoeuvre. But, in the opinion of the CATN (the Assessment Council for National Transition), it wont be considerations of a legal character that determine the future of an independent Catalan state but rather political and economic ones. In their recently released report on Paths for Catalonia's integration in the European Union this consultative body states:

Everything seems to indicate that an independent Catalan state could, if it wanted, join the EU on a relatively brief time-scale. The dilemma, in fact, is not whether or not Catalonia will ever come to form part of the EU, but when and how I will do so (p. 36-37)

And it is precisely this issue that Sobirania i Justícia wants to address on Thursday 15 May at 19.00h in the Blanquerna Auditorium of the Faculty of Communications of URL (University of Ramon Lull)), with contributions from: the political scientist, Kai-Olaf Lang, Head of the Research Division EU Integration of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, based in Berlin; Francina Esteve, professor of International Public Law and EU Law at the University of Girona and member of the CATN and Joan Vallvé, former Euro MP (1994-9 and 2002-4).

These participants in the Round Table will speak Catalan or English with a simultaneous translation available. Thanks to the generosity of El Singular Digital, those people unable to be present physically will have the option of following the debate on computer via live streaming on the web www.elsingular.cat, We are also indebted to the Faculty of Communication Blanquerna of the URL for their generosity in offering us the use of such a splendid installation.

We look forward to receiving your inscriptions for the conference at europa@sij.cat. Admission is free.





By Isabel-Helena Martí, President of Sobirania i Justícia (Sovereignty and Justice) 
@IsabelHMarti

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